25/01/2013 § 2 Comments
The scale of the challenges of the New Model Orchard (NMO) project is dawning on me. Testing ourselves against the 5 Capitals Framework on every decision is already provoking serious debate. Latterly it has been down to the spacing of trees in the orchard.
Modern orchards are high intensity typically 3000 or more trees per hectare, more than double an old orchard. It allows more efficient machinery and agrichemical use and produces the yields which are (usually) financially sustainable today. However if we go for these very narrow rows we have to have special narrow orchard tractors, not much use for anything else on the farm. If the rows were wider we could use our existing pool of wider mid-range tractors and save on buying new manufactured capital.
Conversely agrichemical use, more efficient in narrow rows, represents the greatest carbon sink (see previous post on agrichemicals and the embedded carbon) in modern orchards so a point to narrow rows. Wider rows would perhaps allow inter-cropping increasing financial sustainability, however we would lose sward biodiversity which hosts beneficial insects reducing demand for agrichemical use. Another point to narrow rows.
Ultimately on this farm we have a strong field vegetable business, the more space taken up by orchards the less space for the veg. So it looks like sticking with convention this time – and the customers didn’t like the intercropping idea anyway. Although I still think free range chickens would love living in orchards, just don’t tell the customers.